Frontline healthcare workers deserve long-term security
There is a beauty in numerous nationalities coming together with a unified aim. The Department of Statistics informed us on International Nurses Day that King Edward VII Memorial Hospital employs 514 nurses from 29 different countries.
This is a beautiful statistic, although it is sad that only one quarter (135) of our KEMH nurses hail from Bermuda. I believe that there are vastly more Bermudian nurses working off Bermuda’s shores than within them, which is a great gift to other nations.
These nurses from all over the world truly are the backbone of our healthcare system. Many of them have been in Bermuda for 15 years or more. Many of them have had children here in Bermuda, educated in Bermuda and who have now gone overseas to complete tertiary education, often in health-related fields.
Those children are now not offered the decency of calling Bermuda home. They require a visa to come home to the country they have lived in the whole of their lives. A visa to see your parents. These children of our nurses are being told that their home is a country they have only ever briefly visited and may not even speak the language of.
These nurses, who work night shifts and holidays, who sit at the bedside while people are struggling to breathe, who clean up vomit, urine and poop, are not truly appreciated.
They are offered no long-term residency rights in Bermuda, despite the many years of service with antisocial hours and an incredibly difficult job. At no time has this been more apparent than it is now.
Our nurses were right there at the front line in March 2020, when we didn’t have the information that we now have about transmission of Covid, and they were risking their own lives on behalf of others. This deserves more tangible recognition than a stress ball from management and a 10 per cent pay cut.
I propose that our government follow the example of some other countries, and offer frontline guest workers long-term residency.
There has been talk for a great many years now about immigration reform, and for well over five years bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform has been promised. There have been immigration changes, but our long-term guest workers are still waiting every day in hope, and still feeling ignored.
Bermuda has offered residency to people with more than $2.5 million, and no specific Bermuda connection, while those who are now working in Bermuda, and have done for 20 years, who have demonstrated their willingness to risk their own health for Bermuda, who have paid rent, sent their children to school and invested not only money, but quite literally their lives, are simply overlooked.
Thank you to the Department of Statistics for your celebration of “each member of this diverse pool of professionals who serve Bermuda and have dedicated their lives to the health and wellness of our community”.
Please can the rest of the Government follow suit and celebrate our healthcare professionals in a more tangible way.